How Mr. One-Leg Does It

dark-eyed-junco-on-groundEvery morning a one-legged junco shows up for his job at Starbucks. He stands alone, one foot away from the closed glass door. Coffee vapors seep through the edges, lace a frosty morning. Roasty goodness smiles, beckons you inside with its brown finger. You step closer. Mr. One-Leg refuses to move. You reach for the door. Forget about it. Not moving. You feel like you can’t get at the coffee, though in truth you could. Does the bird understand you’re on a tight schedule? Mr. One-Leg has moxy.

Only when you give this well-fed junco your crumb pledge does he hop aside and let you pass. Now, he has you trained. Then, something else happens: his confidence and courage earn your attention and respect.

Sometimes you may feel like a one-legged junco. You may have come into this world intact but birth family had its way with you and now you find you’re “missing a leg.”

  • You may hunger to be seen.
  • You may long for mutuality.
  • You may also experience crushing loneliness. This may come as a result of choices you make, which may not be bad choices at all–I’m talking about the hard and best choices a person makes to protect one’s self from others who would harm.

Sometimes good choices can feel incredibly bad when it comes to choosing not to stay around people who make you feel bad. You may feel like you lost a family or mate that wasn’t really family at all. A double whammy. This can be crippling. That’s one possible outcome.

Yet, you, like Mr. One Leg, continue to show up for life because you’re made of good stuff. You may have received some awful programming. You may have been bound for years by unhealthy family ties. You may have lost some feathers, picked up some dents and dings along the way. You may have lent your heart to someone who vandalized it for a while. They may have even burgled your voice. You may have lost sight in one eye. A broken wing may have mended badly, a beautiful dream may have ended sadly and maybe, just maybe you can’t fly like you thought you somehow would. Life took little child you and did its thang. You got a bum rap. And yet you survived.

It’s good to establish the facts. That way you can look into the mirror and view your strengths, your remaining options. We are all damaged. Don’t be afraid. You have new choices to make so you’d best get busy. Think about this: as you look into the mirror, let’s suppose your world of CAN’T shifts to a world of WHAT IF?

  • What if your remaining leg has gotten so strong that it’s given you REAL STRENGTH?
  • What if the other birds respect your COMMITMENT to the door?
  • What if your woundedness gives you REAL COURAGE–the kind that brings you to a better way of doing life every morning? What about that, my friend?
  • What if your tactics for survival in the past may now help you to STRATEGIZE for your future?
  • What if you dig deep and ACT on your hard-won knowledge?
  • What if there’s more to you than you realized?

I give Mr. One-Leg a lotta credit. Once he figures out a basic strategy he takes it one hop further! He gimps alongside you to the patio table (making sure you follow through on your commitment). Then, he looks up and says, “More, please!”


Still Dancing Contra

So Saturday Night there was another contra dance at the Black Diamond Hall. Once again, I found myself travelling up the dark, mountain road in the rain, but this time I was not nervous. By the time I got the only leftover parking and got out of the car, I could hear fiddle music weaving through the rain, beckoning me inside. Sure enough, after I walked in and paid my eight bucks, I saw Joanne had, indeed, talked Bob into coming and there they were, over on the other side, the sheep farmer and the workman, dancing away.

Immediately, a man came through the crowd and asked me to be his partner. We danced, he the far more experienced one. He seemed very nice, although as the next half hour progressed I noticed his eyes became a little too fixated on me, and I felt myself becoming more interesting than I thought I was, under the intensity of his gaze. We danced a couple dances and, breathless, I excused myself,  told him I would be back but that I needed a drink. Hey, this dancing is exhausting! I was sweating! But you know, I sensed he was immediately impatient with my need, because he followed me into the kitchen and grabbed the sleeve of my shirt and said “Come on, hurry! The music started.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have this personal space thing and he got into mine before I could say “pushy.” I said to him, “Not until I finish.” He pasted a smile on his face and pretended he enjoyed learning patience for the first time. It was a look I had seen before and did not like. It made me feel stressed, hurried, and believe it or not, rude. But I was not the rude one here, he was. When guilt issues forth from the unwarranted expectations of another, I want to pay attention to the source.

Finally quenched, I went back out to the dance floor with him. I do not know this guy for more than a half hour and he’s already revealing his pushiness?  I thought, then thought again, How considerate. In my book, Buttwheat, you get one free pass but you don’t get two.” So I mentally issued a free pass and we danced again and chatted about this and that until I asked him what line of work he was in. He said, “I was a potter for seventeen years.” Klunk. He plopped that one right out on the dance floor without flushing. I had questions I did not ask. Why did he stop pottering? How long ago did he stop? Was he not serious? Perhaps he dabbled more than worked, I could not know. So I said,”Oh, wow, that sounds interesting,” and tried to think what he might possibly do now for work. Where might a potter go from a position of pottering? “So, what do you do now?” I asked.

“Oh, for the past several years I have studied railroad law. Did you know Congress doesn’t know much about Railroad laws?” He asked, not knowing this was shaping up to be something about which to blog.

“You don’t say.” I said, trying to think on my feet how the heck I’d be able to come up with a  thoughtful question that would sound more intrigued than I actually was. I wanted to be polite after all. So I said, “I believe it’s true that Congress doesn’t know a lot about several things.” It was a joke. He looked at me blankly. I felt pressure to fill the newest lapse in the conversation with something both clever and kind. Hurry..hurry…dig deep now… OK, I had one! “Well, now, how railroad law intersects with Congress certainly is a niche occupation, isn’t it?” I asked and continued, “I imagine studying railroad law must take up so awfully much of your time. How very tiresome it must make you. Hmm, not doing so well in the kind thoughts segment for the evening…

He said, “You seem very interested in this topic. Most people are not, when I talk to them about railroad law. You are interested, right?” He asked.

“Actually no, I am not interested in it at all. It bores me to death, I am sorry to say,” I said and was glad when he laughed at my frankness. At least he was a good sport.

“Say, why don’t you come with me to the Valentine’s Day Dance down at the Sequim Prairie Grange this weekend?” There it was. The asking of the date I had known was coming. “Come be my date. It’ll be fun!” There it was again.

“I don’t know, but hey, will we get to talk about the cool and interesting railroad laws if I go with you?” I did not ask him. Instead I thought about how much I cherished my brother, David, and his excellent wife, Kathy in that very moment, in that very place, up on Black Diamond Road. “Oh, unfortunately, it will be impossible for me to go because my brother and his wife are coming over that weekend.” I put on my best frowny face in the hopes that he would be completely deterred. Instead, he said, “Your brother and wife can come too. Do you think they would want to dance with hillbillies?”

Wait. I’m a hillbilly now? Uh, OK, Fine with that. Don’t care. “The plans are not firmed up yet. All I know is that they are coming,” I said in a sure tone.

After that, we danced one more set. Then he said he was going to get himself another dance partner. I didn’t blame him. I don’t do pushy. Not anymore.


Learning to Dance